Etiwanda goes cold in state semifinal, loses rematch with Mater Dei

This time it was the Etiwanda boys basketball team with the No. 1 seed next to its name in the program. And it was two-time defending state champion Santa Ana Mater Dei that avenged a loss in the CIF-SS Division 1AA championship game two weeks earlier with a 60-37 win over the Eagles in the CIF State Southern California regional final Saturday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

Etiwanda’s hot shooting was a huge factor in staking the Eagles to a 17-point fourth quarter lead in an eventual three-point victory over then No. 1 seed Mater Dei March 2 for the CIF-SS title.

The Eagles went cold Saturday night.

Etiwanda shot 27 percent from the field as Mater Dei advanced to its third consecutive state championship game.

“To struggle like we did offensively, that’s when the kids started doubting themselves,” Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner said. “I think they started to put pressure on themselves. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Jordan Strawberry began to gain some separation for Mater Dei (33-2) with 10 of his 17 points in the second quarter when Mater Dei opened up a 12-point lead.

Mater Dei star Stanley Johnson went 0 for 10 from the field in the first half, but the 6-foot-7 forward hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Mater Dei lead ballooned to 20 points.
Johnson was 6 of 7 from the field in the third quarter during which he scored 16 of his 25 points.

“I’m just glad they can’t leave early out of high school,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “So we’ve got him for one more year.”

Coming off a 30-point performance in Etiwanda’s victory over CIF-City Section Division I champion Westchester on Tuesday, Etiwanda leading scorer Jordan McLaughlin was 1 for 15 from the field with four points against Mater Dei. The junior point guard wasn’t the only one that struggled against tough defense from the Monarchs.

Etiwanda made 6 of 6 3-pointers in the first half of its CIF-SS championship game win over Mater Dei. Saturday night, the Eagles were 0 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished the game 2 of 17.

“We could never get it going tonight, but this team overachieved this year,” Kleckner said. “To beat (Long Beach) Poly at Poly and beat Mater Dei in the championship game, that was overachieving for this group. I think both of those teams probably had better personnel then us.”

It was Mater Dei that started the game slow Saturday, but a 10-1 run bridging the first and second quarters gave the Monarchs their first lead of the game. Etiwanda watched a five-point first-quarter lead slip away as Mater Dei led 15-11 30 seconds into the second quarter.

Etiwanda’s deficit only grew in a second quarter during which Mater Dei’s Strawberry caught fire. The senior guard was 4 of 5 from the field in the period while the entire Etiwanda team went without a field goal for the first five and a half minutes of the second quarter. Strawberry’s 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining in the first half gave the Monarchs a 12-point lead they would carry into halftime.

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